Social media hashtags have transformed how businesses and consumers interact. For example, you might have recently seen Red Bull promoting #PutACanOnIt, which encourages social media users to post pictures of Red Bull cans placed in unique positions. Hashtags like this one allow consumers to communicate with companies directly regarding when, where, how, and why they use their products. On the other hand, hashtags also help companies track the evolution of their brands, promote products, and engage directly with consumers online.
The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) defines a hashtag as a form of metadata consisting of a word or phrase prefixed with the symbol “#” (e.g., #chicago, #sewing, and #supremecourtdecisions). See Trademark Manual of Examining Procedure § 1202.18 (Apr. 2016). Social media platforms, such as Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Vine, use hashtags to group content together by topic. Social media users then access a particular topic by clicking on or searching for hashtags linked to the content.